Category Archives: Mexican Fiesta

Mrs H’s Tissue Paper Flowers

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Mrs H’s Tissue Paper Flowers

1420711999072I was given the opportunity recently to make a bunch of tissue paper flowers for a school project.  I had so much fun with it honestly, and thought, these sure would make a beautiful decoration, or they could be used for head garlands (as pictured here) which are pretty popular in Texas, or Homecoming Mums (another Texas thing), or to decorate Derby hats, or for a garden tea party, or luau, or FiEsTa (which happens to be going on in San Antonio at this very moment), which got me to thinking that somebody else out there might appreciate knowing how to make these.  I also sure don’t want to ever forget how I made them, so…  that’s as good a reason as any to blog about something, me thinks.

Materials needed:  1 package of multi-colored tissue paper, a good pair of sissors, a stapler, and string (optional).

A large package of multi-colored tissue paper is fairly inexpensive to buy at the big box stores ($10 for 100 sheets).  And one of those packages will give you more than enough paper to make 100 flowers that are roughly the size of one of those mesh shower pouf thingies.  (If you want to make giant flowers, you could probably squeeze 10 or so out of a package???)

So here is how you make them.  First open the package of tissue paper and separate the colors.  Straighten up the sheets so that they lay exactly on top of each other.  Peel off two sheets of one color of the tissue paper.

Tissue Paper Flower instruction1

Now, I’ve included visual instructions below that will hopefully be easy to follow, but I will also explain…

Flower Making collage1

  1.  Gather your materials.  It will help to have a large table where you can spread out the tissue paper into individual color piles.  (My poor sissors, you’ll notice, have issues, actually just one issue.  I don’t know what happened, but they are Fiskers, and the handles have decomposed over the years since I first bought them.  They are sticky now, and almost clay-like.  The stuff was coming off on my hands and making my hands sticky, so I wrapped the handles in strips of paper towel.  Has this happened to anyone else? Or is it just the humidity in the south that has made mine do this?)
  2. Peel off 5 sheets of tissue paper and stack them together neatly.  Then starting at the bottom fold up about an inch width and press it flat.
  3. Flip the stack over and fold the other direction, and press flat.
  4. Continue folding in an accordion pattern until you reach the other end.
  5. Press the stack flat.
  6. Fold the stack in half to mark the center place.
  7. Press it flat to make a good crease.
  8. Open and place under the stapler, and place a staple on exactly that center crease line. Option: you can also tie a string around this center part so you will have something to tie the flower, to attach it to whatever you are decorating.
  9. (Photo just shows the staple being present)
  10. Now cut one end with whatever pattern you wish for the type of flower you wish to make (see diagram below)
  11. Cut the first end and discard the scraps
  12. Then cut the second end to match
  13. Fan out the ends to make it easy to separate the individual sheets

Tissue Paper Flower cuts

  • Orange shows a gardenia type flower
  • Purple shows a hydrangea type flower
  • Pink shows a peony type flower
  • Green shows a magnolia type flower
  • Blue shows a Zinnia type flower
  • Red shows a Carnation type flower
  • Gray shows a Dahlia type flower
  • Yellow shows a Chrysanthemum, or Mum type flower

Flower Making collage2

14. Fan out both ends

15. Carefully peel off the top sheet and pull it away from the others, up towards the center

16 – 18. Continue separating sheets and pulling them up towards the center on both ends, going around in a circle

19. Smooth out the last sheet to flatten out the bottom

20 – 23. Bring the flower around and fluff each peddle to make them all uniform and fill in any gaps.

24 – 26. Set your flower down and admire how pretty it is.  Then pick another color and continue making flowers.

Tissue Paper Flower instruction4 The center pom kind of makes a flower that looks like a cactus flower.  You can do the same sort of thing with green tissue going out the bottom to look like the bud part of the bloom (just cut it with deep zig zags instead of the fringe).  You can also experiment with various cuts, and you can also layer two colors of tissue together to make more interesting options.  Here are some samples of the flowers I made.  They turned out soooooo pretty?

Tissue Paper Flowers collage

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
    and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head
    and a chain to adorn your neck.
” 

Proverbs 1:8-9 NIV

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Mrs H’s Fish Tacos

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Mrs H’s Fish Tacos

Where were you when you first experienced fish tacos? Can you remember the day, the place, and the time?  Did the world stop spinning for just a moment as your tongue delighted in their savory goodness?  Were yours as life changing for you as mine were for me?  LOL!

Well, I first experienced FISH TACOS when we visited our daughter in Seattle.  She took us to the Experience Music Project, and during our tour there we decided to eat lunch in the little restaurant downstairs of that massive building.  It was a foodie little haven with a modest but eclectic menu.

I was a little sceptical about “fish tacos” when I first heard of them, having only an image of beef tacos in my head – with taco seasonings, lettuce, and cheese, but everyone I knew simply raved about them.  So, I decided to put my mommy money where my mommy mouth was and actually taste them before I judged them.  Best decision ever!!!!  They were out of this world, my new favorite food, and I’ve been just a little bit obsessed about them ever since.

They are easy to make from scratch, but now that I am cooking for two I often make them from doggie-bag catfish from our favorite local restaurant.

Ingredients

battered fish for fish tacos2

For the Fish

Fish, just about any mild white fish works (Cod, Barramundi, Red Fish, Tilapia, etc.) about 1 nice sized piece per taco, so about 12 to 15 pieces (and at 3 tacos apiece, this recipe will feed about 4 or 5 people)

Seasoned Flour  (to 1 1/2 cups flour add about 1/2 tsp of each: garlic powder, paprika, ground oregano, onion powder, ground cumin, salt, sugar, and cayenne powder)  (or you can cheat and use a preseasoned fish fry coating, or a cajun spice  in place of the individual seasonings)

Beer or Dry White Wine (or water will also work in a pinch)

Hot oil to fry the fish in

 

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For the Slaw

1/2 of a red cabbage

1/2 of a green cabbage

1/2 of a large white onion

3 red radishes

1/2 cup cilantro

Juice of 1 or 2 limes (2 if they are small)

 

sauce for fish tacos

For the Sauce

2/3 cup sour cream

1/4 cup Mayo

2 ripe avocados

1/2 cup cilantro, very finely minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 lime

1 jalapeno (or serrano), very finely minced

Dash of Sriracha, to taste

Pinch of Kosher salt, to taste

 

Also need about 12 to 15 white corn tortillas and a little oil to soften them in

 

Directions

As a time saver, you can make the slaw and the sauce ahead of time – early in the day, and keep them in the fridge until ready to assemble.

Fish Taco Slaw

Shred the cabbages into thin strips and then give them a rough chop, cut the onion into the same size thin strips, slice the radishes into slices and then cut them into thin strips, and chop the cilantro.  Toss all together in a bowl and squeeze lime juice over.  Toss again to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and keep in fridge.

Fish Taco Sauce

For the sauce, mash the avacados with a fork until smooth.  Add to sour cream and mayo.  Stir in cilantro, garlic, and as much of the jalapeno or serrano as you prefer.  Squeeze lime juice in and stir.  Add Sriracha and salt to taste.  To make it really smooth you can whirl it in a food processor for a few moments.  Cover with plastic wrap and keep in fridge until ready to assemble.

 

Tortillas

Add a little vegetable oil to a skillet and place on medium high heat.  Add one tortilla at a time and soften by frying it briefly on each side and then removing to a paper towel lined plate.  Add oil to the pan as needed after several tortillas have been fried.  Cover tortillas with foil and place in a warm place until ready to assemble.

battered fish for fish tacos2

Now, you can prepare the fish however you prefer.  If you like it grilled, you can season the pieces with a mixture of the same spices that are listed for the flour, and then just grill each piece a few moments on each side on an outdoor grill or indoor grill until it flakes easily.

If you like it fried, you can rinse the pieces off with cold water and then toss them in the seasoned flour to coat, and then fry them in hot oil (the same frying pan that you used for the tortillas) for a few minutes on each side until when tested they flake easily.

Or, if you like them batter fried (my fav), place peanut oil in a dutch oven or deep fryer enough so that the fish pieces will be completely covered, but make sure your pot is large enough that it won’t boil over when the fish are added a few pieces at a time.  Heat and keep the oil temp between 350 to 375 degrees F.  You can add beer or white wine to the seasoned flour (about an equal portion 1 to 1) and stir.  Add more liquid until it is about the consistency of a thin pancake batter, then dip your rinsed and patted dry pieces of fish in the batter and drop in hot oil and fry until when tested it flakes easily.

Or, if you have a mess of catfish that have been cornmeal battered and fried, the leftovers make excellent tacos.  I actually do this quite often.

To Assemble

BTW: I have some nifty taco plates that are awesome for taco assembly:

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Fish Tacos

Lay one (or two small) piece(s) of fish in the center of each tortilla, and then add a small mound of slaw, and finally top with a nice dallop of sauce.  Fold in half and enjoy.  Mmmmmm!  Just let your eyes roll back into your head while your tongue finds its happy place.  Wipe mouth and repeat, repeat, repeat.

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 “Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”  They answered Him, “No.”

And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.”    John 21:5-6 (NKJV)

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Mrs H’s Tacos

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Mrs H’s Tacos

Get ready for TACO TUESDAY!!!!!!  This might be one of the more coveted recipes in my collection.  I am often asked how I make my tacos.  It is also a frequent request for Family Supper night by daughter, son-in-law, and the grandkids.  It’s one of my husband’s favorite dinners, and really one of my favorites too!!!!  Quick and easy!!!!

Let’s start with the meat

Taco meat

I use 2 lb. of quality ground beef (to feed 4 adults and 2 kids) – a good organic, grass fed, angus beef.  I break it apart in a frying pan and toss while cooking over medium high heat until browned.  Drain off and discard the fat .  I then sprinkle 2 packets of Lawry’s Taco Seasoning Mix over the meat, and then I fill the empty packets with water and pour the water over the seasoning and stir it well into the meat, with the heat turned down to medium low.  To this I add about a half cup of salsa (fresh or canned) and stir that altogether.  I then let the meat simmer on low heat until the tacos are ready to assemble.

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The meat will become drier the longer it simmers.  I personally like it dry so that it doesn’t make the bottom of my tacos soggy.  I don’t like when they fall apart and all the stuffing falls out.

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Pico de gallo

I use about 1 1/2 cup of chopped sweet cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup chopped fresh jalapenos, and 1 cup chopped green onions (or a small sweet white onion if I don’t have green onions on hand), then add about 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 2 cloves of garlic minced, the juice of two limes, and a sprinkle of salt to taste.  If the jalapenos are really mild, I sometimes add a pinch of cayenne for some kick.

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Toppings

I chop one whole bunch of Romaine lettuce into small shreds.

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I like to shred my own cheese (pepper jack) when I’m feeling ambitious, but often use a Mexican cheese blend that is pre-shredded already.

Taco Shells

Taco Shells

I buy the small Old El Paso brand taco shells (2 pkgs to feed my family of 4 adults and 2 kids because the men will easily eat 6 tacos apiece or more).

Taco Shells in oven

I preheat my oven to 360*F, and set the shells in a baking pan.  When the oven is ready I pop the pan of shells in for about 6 minutes, or whatever time is recommended on the package.  This is an important step because it makes the shells nice and crispy!!!

 

 

Taco Sauce

I actually use a variety of sauces.  I like to try new ones.  The green tomatillo Herdez or La Costena hot sauces (medium) are both really good standbys.  I like the Taco Bell hot sauce (Diablo), and the DelPrimo sauces are all good.  But my favorite of recent is El Gallo flame roasted Jalapeno.  It comes in a bag with a little screw top spout (medium).

Taco Assembly2

To assemble the tacos I remove the shells from the oven and quickly fill them with meat, dispersing it evenly among the shells.  I sprinkle cheese over the meat in each shell, and then add the lettuce.  They each then get a spoonful of my fresh Pico and a generous pour of tomatillo taco sauce.  That’s it!  Mmmmmm…. let’s eat!!!!!!

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Now some people might like to add chopped black olives, maybe some sour cream, possibly some sliced avacado, and that’s all good, but personally, I can’t bear to mess with perfection.

If you’d like to add a couple of sides, I love charros or refries and Mexican Rice.  And you can never go wrong with Sopapilla Cheesecake for dessert!!!!!  Hubby washes his meal down with a good Modelo cerveza!  I just like iced tea.  Gracee will take a Margarita, if I make her one, and the kids like horchata.

Hey, while we are enjoying our Family Supper, may I share with you from the book One Year of Dinner Table Devotions & Discussion starters by Nancy Guthrie (published by Tyndale)?

 

Devotion

A Gringo Tamalada, Ole!

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A Gringo Tamalada, Ole!

While the rest of my fellow “gringos” are having “Ugly Sweater” parties, Cookie Exchanges, and Gift Wrapping/Mulled-Wine drinking parties for Christmas wouldn’t it be fun to host a TAMALADA just to be different?

I recently tried my hand at making Tamales, and to my delight they turned out, and were actually delicious (thank God), but boy howdy were they a ton of work. Took me ALL DAY! I’m absolutely addicted to tamales at Christmas, but I’m thinking if I ever decide to make them again I will want to make a party out of it, because many hands make light work. So here’s what I’m thinking…

Who to invite? Hmmm, well they’ll need to be reliable guests, who promise to make their dish and show up for the assembly process.

I could send them each a recipe card, after they RSVP and volunteer for a portion of the tamale-making they want to do. The host (which will be me, if I manage to muster the courage to actually do this) will provide snacks, and beverages – I’m thinking some fun drink choices would be Sangria; a Hot-Mexican-Chocolate Bar; Horchata Smoothies; and blended Margaritas. I’ll need to remember to find a good Latino Christmas Album or two or three to play for ambiance during the party, and also dig out an entertaining game to go with the party, that we can play while we’re waiting for the first batch of tamales to come out of the steamers. A couple of my favorites are Mexican Train (dominoes) and Canasta (cards)!

Or, if my family/friends want to bring their Christmas cards, stamps, address labels, and stationery we could get our Christmas cards ready to mail out while we wait for tamales, and we can snack and visit while we write and fold and lick and stamp! Make it kind of a working Tamale party! I can offer this on the invitations, and then discuss it with everybody when they RSVP.

Here’s how I’m thinking we can split up the cooking…

Guests #1, 2, & 3 could each make a 3-lb pork roast (half of the recipe listed below) and shred it, discarding any bone or cartilage, and reserving and bringing the strained pork broth to the party.

Pork for Tamales Tamalada Party recipe card

Printable Recipe Card

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Guest #4 could make the Chili sauce up to the point of adding the broth and blending it, and bring the cooked chilies with them to the party.

Red Sauce Tamalada Party recipe card

Printable Recipe Card

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HOST: could prepare corn husks

Boiled corn husks

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Guest #5 could make the Masa, up to the point of adding the broth and mixing, and bring it to the party

Masa Tamalada Party recipe card

Printable Recipe Card

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Click this link for a FREE PRINTABLE of the Recipe cards for Tamalada!

(((((-Full recipes are further down on this page-)))))

My Tamalada Invitation

Printable Invitation

Click this LINK for the printable Tamalada Invitation!

So, I know from experience that it’s going to take at least 4 hours to make the finishing touches on the meat and masa, then assemble, and steam the tamales. So I’ll plan my party accordingly when filling out the details on the invitation. Maybe I should have it on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon?

Once my guests have RSVP’d and volunteered for the dish they want to make, I’ll send them out the recipe card for their items (shown above, in case you missed them).

((((( Click here for the FREE PRINTABLE Recipe cards for Tamalada! )))))

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PREPARING FOR MY PARTY:

Buy whatever groceries and beverages I’ll need and give myself time to prepare them before the party.

Set up a station for the final masa preparation. I will need counter space, a large bowl, a mixer, and a cup of warm water to test the masa in.

Set up a work station for the final preparation of the red sauce. I will need a large sauce pot for the stove, and a blender or food processor. Someone will be making a roux in the sauce pot, and another person will be blending the red sauce (softened chilies and broth from pork). The pork and the red sauce will be added to the roux.

I’ll set up a large table for assembly. Place the ingredients down the center of my table, the husks next to the masa, the masa next to the meat, and finally a cookie sheet at the end to pile the tamales on. I’ll put a person at each ingredient and we’ll pass each tamal along. They’ll go together pretty quick. I will need some clean kitchen towels and possibly a roll of paper towels, also a masa spreader or spatula, a spoon to measure the masa, a spoon to measure the meat, and a large cookie sheet. And afterward some tin foil to wrap the tamales in for sending home or freezing.

Make room in my refrigerator for whatever uncooked tamales, and whatever else needs refrigerated.

Set up the steamer pots (illustrated below). I will need two large canner size pots with lids and a steamer basket for each inside. I will also need two clean kitchen towels and water for those.

Set up a beverage station with various beverages as mentioned earlier. I can set up a hot cocoa bar, I can also set out a large thermos of blended Margaritas, and a pitcher of Sangria. I might also want to set out some iced tea and water and a cooler of ice, and a variety of glasses and mugs.

Set up an appetizer/snack table where guests can nibble as we wait for the tamales to cook. Decide what appetizers I will serve at my party, and have them ready when guests arrive. I will need serving plates, bowls, spoons, etc. I might want to have a pretty tablecloth for this table, and some festive table decorations.

Set up the music that I will have playing in the background of my party.

Set out a couple of game choices (mentioned earlier), so that once the tamales are all assembled, and the table has been cleared, we can start having some fun. Or if we all prefer doing Christmas cards, I will need to *be sure to note this in my party reminder call, so my guests will know to bring their supplies!

Of course I’ll want a clean house, a spotless kitchen, and a tidy bathroom at least. Ugh! Sometimes this keeps me from throwing parties! My house is truly never clean enough.  Oh suck it up girl, get to scrubbin’ it’s gonna be fun!!!!!!!!!

A day or two before the party I can send a reminder via Text/eMail/Phonecall, so my guests will know if we’ll be doing Christmas cards during the party, or just playing games and eating. They might need the prodding for the dish they are making too!

Day of the party designate various ASSEMBLY LINE jobs:

Someone to wash all the dirty dishes and clean counters (my least fav job)

Someone to make the roux, and mix the meat with the sauce

Someone to finish making the red sauce

Someone to finish making the masa

Assembly line Husk Person, who will dry and pass the husks

Assembly line Masa Spreader person

Assembly line Meat person, who will also wrap tamales

Tamale tie person, who will tear off strips of husk to tie around tamales and stack them on a cookie sheet

And finally someone to set up and load steamers, and babysit them with water

Full RECIPES

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Pork for Tamales

2 3-lb pkgs Pork Carnitas or a shoulder roast

1 large onion, chopped

5 cloves garlic, broken in pieces

3 jalapenos, chopped

1 Tbsp salt

Enough water to cover

DO AT HOME: Place pork roast, onion, garlic, and salt in a large pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer over medium heat until pork is very tender, about 3 hours. Remove pork from water and shred. Store in a Ziploc bag and keep in refrigerator for up to a day, until ready to use. Strain liquid and reserve for use in making the red sauce and the masa. Place in sealed jars in refrigerator for up to a day. Skim the fat off the broth and place it in a separate ziploc bag to use for the roux. Bring the pork, broth, and skimmed fat to the party.

Carnitas Pork

DO AT THE PARTY: Once at the party someone will need to make a roux (see recipe below) and then the pulled pork can be combined with the roux and the red sauce.

chili cascavel

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Red Sauce

4 ounces California (or Cascavel) chile pods, seeds and stems removed

4 ounces New Mexico chile pods, seeds and stems removed

1 1/4 cup reserved pork broth

1 1/4 cup water

1 Tbsp salt

3 cloves garlic, broken in pieces

1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin seeds

DO AT HOME: Toast chilies in a hot skillet over medium high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant. Rinse chile pods. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add rinsed chile pods and cook until chile pods are softened, about 15 minutes. Drain water off chilies and discard the water. Add salt, garlic, and ground cumin. Seal in a plastic bag until ready to blend at the party. This can be done up to a day ahead.

DO AT THE PARTY: Pour chilies, broth, and water into a blender and blend until smooth. Place in large kettle until ready to mix with the pork.

Roux: Someone will need to make a roux using ½ cup lard, reserved from roast, and ½ cup flour. Cook on the stove, stirring continually until peanut butter colored. Toss in the pork and red sauce and mix well. I also like to chop another jalapeno or two to add to the meat. Cover and refrigerate, or if near to being ready to assemble, place on the assembly line.

Pork mixed with red sauce

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Masa

2 pounds Manteca lard, divided

2 teaspoons baking powder, divided

2 tablespoons salt, divided

5 pounds ground masa harina, divided

2 to 3 cups broth reserved from cooked pork roast (or chicken broth), divided

½ bunch Cilantro, finely minced

Small white onion, very finely minced

½ cup Tomatillo Salsa, or Salsa Verde

Reserved pork broth with skimmed fat

DO AT HOME: Place 1 pound of lard in a KitchenAid® Stand Mixer and mix until fluffy, scraping sides so the lard stays in the center of the mixing bowl. (The flat beater is the ideal accessory for mixing.) Add half the baking powder and half the salt to the lard and mix together. Add half the masa harina and mix together. Seal in a ziploc bag in the fridge.

Now do the other half of the same ingredients, and store in the fridge in a ziploc bag for up to a day. Please bring to room temp before bringing to the party.

DO AT THE PARTY: Place one room temperature batch of the masa in a large bowl. Slowly add half the broth, half the onion and cilantro, and half the salsa verde, to and mix until combined. The mixture should be about the consistency of smooth peanut butter. If not, add more broth as necessary. Test the masa by taking a small piece (1/2 teaspoon) and dropping it into a cup of warm water. If it floats it is ready; if it sinks, add a little more lard, beat for another minute and test it again. Repeat this process until the masa floats. Cover and set on the assembly table.

Repeat the process with the remaining batch of masa.

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Corn Husks

DO AT HOME: Take husks from package and rinse well in the sink, removing any silks or debris. Fill a large stock pot with water and press the clean husks down to submerge them. Bring water to a boil and soak husks in gently boiling water for about 1 hour. You may need to flip the stack occasionally so the top ones get pliable. Drain water from husks but keep husks in the kettle with the lid on.

DO AT THE PARTY: Set warm, soaked husks, in covered pot on the assembly table. Keep a clean kitchen towel nearby to dry the husks just before spreading them with masa, otherwise the masa won’t stick.

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ASSEMBLY LINE

Tamale Assembly Station

Place the husks, masa, meat, and cookie sheet down the center of a table, and seat my guests all around it, except the guest who volunteered to do the mountain of dirty dishes. Assembly will start with corn husks being dried off and passed to the masa person next to them, that person will spread it with masa and pass it to the meat person next to them; that person will top it with meat and wrap it and hand it across to the tie person; that person will tear off a little strip from a boiled husk and use it to tie around the tamal and lay on the cookie sheet. Once the cookie sheet is full and heaping, the last person (ME) will pack the tamales vertically in the steamer with the open end up and start them steaming.

Assembly Line

SPREADING THE MASA: Place the wide end of the husk on the palm of your hand (or on the flat work surface), narrow end is at the top. Starting at the middle of the husk spread 2 tablespoons of the masa with a spatula or masa spreader in a rectangle shape, using a downward motion towards the wide-bottom edge. Do not spread the masa to the ends; leave about a 2-inch border on the left and right sides of the husk. Pass to the person with the meat (or other) filling. There is too wide of a swath of masa on this husk shown below, and also it’s not quite thick enough. You only need enough masa to wrap around the meat and a little extra to hold the husk closed.

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ADDING THE MEAT: Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of your chosen filling down the center of the masa. (When I ran out of meat filling and still had masa, I started making Pepper Jack Cheese and Jalapeno filling. Fold both sides of hust to the center over the top of the meat; finish off by bringing the pointed end of the husk toward the filled end. Pass tamale to the person who will tie the tamales closed.

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TAMALE TIE PERSON: Make sure each tamal is snuggly closed and will not open during steaming. You can secure by tying a thin strip of corn husk around each tamal. This will keep the tamal from unwrapping during the steaming process, especially if the husk is too thick and will not stay folded. Stack wrapped tamales on a cookie sheet.

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HOST: Prepare the steamer pots… (You will also load the steamer pots)

Steamer Pot

This is my tamale steamer. I can only fill water up to the little rack, but not above it, and start it simmering on the stove. The steamer pot needs to be tall enough for our tamales to sit up vertically above the water and still fit the lid on. (If you don’t have a double boiler, you can improvise like I have. All mine is, is a round cooling rack setting on top of a brick, which I’ve washed several times in the dishwasher, or I could also use a small colander placed down into the bottom of my soup kettle and my rack on top. This set up works perfectly. Each steamer will need to have a clean kitchen towel and a lid.

When a cookie sheet of tamales is piled up high, they can be loaded in the steamer…

Fill the top part of the steamer with tamales. Stand the tamales up vertically, open ends up and folded ends at the bottom, and make sure the folded part is either tied up, or held in place with another tamal. Pack the tamales snug enough so that they won’t fall over during cooking, but not so tight that the steam can’t get in around them. In other words, don’t cram and squish them as tight as they will go, but let there be too much space or they will collapse and mush over. If there are not enough tamales to fill the steamer, use canning jars to take up the spaces so the tamales don’t fall over.

Turn heat up on the water until it boils. Cover the tamales with a clean kitchen towel and then the lid of the pot. Turn the heat down to medium so that it stays gently boiling, but not raging boiling. Set timer for 2 hours. Check every 20 to 30 minutes or so to make sure the water is not boiling dry, and add boiling water as necessary. Make sure the tamales are above the water line and that the bottoms are not siting in water at all.

Steaming tamales

Tamales will need to steam for 2 hours or more. After 2 hours we can test for doneness. Remove one tamale and check if the masa holds together and slips easily off the husk. If so, it is done, if not it needs to steam some more. Check again in 15 minutes when I check the water level.

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When a batch of tamales is done they can be eaten right away, or wrapped in foil (1 dozen at a time) and refrigerated or frozen for later.

cooked tamales

Divide the wrapped dozens of tamales among the guests. There should be about 1-2 dozen per guest.

You will want to eat some at the party!!!! There are lots of ways to eat tamales. Some like them topped with just a little of the red sauce, which you can make another batch of while the tamales are steaming. I like mine all different ways. Straight out of the steamer and burning my fingers and tongue as I shove them into my mouth, or if I have all the toppings on hand for Tortilla Soup or Carnitas tacos, I like all of those (minus the tortilla strips) on top of my tamales. I also like them with salsa verde, chopped onions, cilantro, and jalapenos, and a little dallop of sour cream (as pictured below). And I also like them loaded up with red sauce, pepper-jack cheese, black olives, corn and black bean salsa, shredded lettuce and pico de gallo. There is just about no wrong way to eat a tamale.

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So there you have it. Sound like fun to you? I’m pretty sure all my Mexican friends reading this are laughing at my gringo-ness; all having hosted and attended a hundred Tamaladas, so hopefully one of you will take pity on me and invite me to your next one, to show me how it’s done! My hat’s off to whoever invented tamales, for passing on this wonderful food, and to my friends south of the border for keeping going this fun tradition. Feliz Navidad!

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“The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine.” Isaiah 25:6

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4th of July Sopapilla Cheesecake

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4th of July Sopapilla Cheesecake

Sopapilla Cheesecake is my go-to, super-fast-and-easy dessert after any Mexican dishes that I serve for supper (like “Taco Tuesday,” Taco Salad, Tamales, Chicken/Cheese/Beef Enchiladas, Chili Rellenos, Asada Street Tacos, Carnitas, Loaded Nachos, Quesadillas, etc.).  This year I decided it would be a perfect Red, White, and Blue sweet ending to our Independence Day meal, because of the colors, and because I had all the ingredients in my fridge!

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

 

2 (8-oz) pkgs Cream Cheese, softened (room temp)

1 cup sugar

½ tsp Mexican Vanilla (or, if you want to be fancy, you can scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean pod)

Mix together all three ingredients until smooth and thoroughly incorporated.  Set aside.

 

2  (8-oz) tubes Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (or, you can make your own croissant dough)

¾ cup sugar

1 tsp. Cinnamon

½ cup butter, softened (room temp)

¼ cup honey (warm in microwave for about 20 seconds, after baking cheesecake)

Lightly grease a large baking pan (or small high-sided cookie sheet) with a tablespoon of the softened butter.  Unroll one tube of crescent rolls and roll out to fit in the bottom of the greased baking pan/sheet, pinching the perforations together.  Spread the cream cheese mixture over the dough, leaving a small edge of the dough all the way around uncovered (like a pizza).  Unroll the second tube of dough and roll out to fit over the cream cheese layer.  Press down slightly around the edges.  Mix the sugar, cinnamon, and remaining softened butter together into a paste.  Spread over the top layer of dough. 

Bake in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven for about 30 minutes, until puffed and golden.  Remove from oven and drizzle the entire top of the cheesecake with warmed honey.

 

Strawberry Blueberry Compote

(This is what gives the dessert the RED and BLUE  on WHITE treatment)

¼ cup of cold water

Juice and zest of one lemon

½ cup sugar

2 Tbsp Cornstarch

1 pkg frozen strawberries

½ pkg frozen blueberries

Place water, lemon juice and zest, sugar, and cornstarch in a sauce pot on the stove.  Stir to mix the ingredients and then turn heat on medium high.  Add strawberries and bring to a boil, stirring until mixture is thick.  Remove from heat and add blueberries.  Set aside until ready to serve.

 

Cheesecake may be served warm or cold.  My son-in-law loves it warm and gooey.  I think it is delish the next morning after being refrigerated overnight, with a hot, creamy cup of coffee – like a cheese danish.  Mmmmmmm…don’t you?

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The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who waters will also be watered himself.

Proverbs 11:25 NKJV

 

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” 

Galatians 5:1

 

South Texas Style Chili Rellenos

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South Texas Style Chili Rellenos

The title is kind of a guffaw, actually, and the reason I grin-and-bare that is that when hubby and I first moved to south Texas, and specifically the little town that we’re in, there wasn’t a chili relleno to be had on a single menu; not in a single restaurant in our town.  And when I asked for “green chili” on an omelet for the first time I was met with a puzzled look and a question, “Do you  mean Tomatillo sauce?”  Um, no.

Needless to say, we were terribly disappointed, and bewildered.  How could this be?  Is it that green chilies only migrated north and west from New Mexico and not east?  Maybe they aren’t a Mexican food at all?  Perhaps it was my ignorance that green chilies and Tex-Mex were synonymous? 😞

I’m happy to report that just a couple of years later Hatch green chilies started making an appearance in these parts, and when they did, they made a big appearance.  There are still no Chili Rellenos on the menus in our town, but at least this girl can get the ingredients in our local grocery to make them now, and that’s really all that matters.

And in all fairness, not all of South Texas is a dry Rellenos area; we’ve had them in a few San Antonio restaurants, even though they only barely resemble the authentic Rellenos that first stole my heart.

And, please pardon if I don’t make mine like you do.  This is the way I personally like them.  I’m sure I would love yours, unless you make them with ground beef filling, and then I’ll have to reserve my judgement until I’ve tasted them.  Husband likes the beef filled rellenos, but I dream about cheese filled rellenos and am content to eat those for the rest of my days.

I got my Ranchera Sauce recipe from a gal I stopped in the middle of HEB not long back.  She works in a local restaurant, so I knew she would steer me straight, at least as much of it as I could remember as she rattled her recipe off to me in the midst of my gathering ingredients.  Ha!  I hope I’m making it right. It’s sure tasty, so I’m sticking with it. 😆

First we start with the Ranchera Sauce

Place a stick of butter into a heavy pan and on medium high heat begin melting.  As soon as it is melted add one whole large chopped onion (white or yellow).  Saute the onion until it is translucent, turn heat down to medium and continue sautéing until the onions are caramelized.  This will take quite a while.

Chop 2 jalapenos (stems discarded), and about 6 large plum tomatoes into chunks.  Add them to the caramelized onions and let them cook until softened.  Add a 14-oz can of tomato sauce to the mixture, stir, place a lid, reduce heat to simmer, and let cook until you are ready to batter and fry the rellenos.  I have had the Ranchera sauce served to me chunky several times, so I presume that is the authentic way, but I use a Braun Wand blender tool to whirl the Ranchera into a smooth sauce with no large chunks.

Now, the preparation of the green chilies…

Pick the largest, firmest ones you can find at your grocery.  Bring them home and wash them, and then dry them.  I like the spicy ones.  You might prefer the milder ones.

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Move an oven rack up to the highest level of your oven.  Preheat your oven broiler (you can do them on the grill, or use a propane flame torch outdoors, which is a thousand times more efficient…but if you don’t have one the oven might be more convenient for you).  Place your washed chilies on a cookie sheet and slide them onto that top rack in the oven.

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Close the oven door (I prop my door open slightly with a wooden spoon – I like to hear my chilies popping and crackling).

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Let the chilies broil on one side long enough for them to become charred and blistered.

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Use tongs to roll them a quarter turn and return to broiler.  Check them often for doneness.  Continue turning and broiling until the chilies skins are blistered and charred all the way around.

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Quickly remove them from the cookie sheet and place them into a large Ziploc freezer bag, and seal it.

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Allow chilies to steam inside the bag for several minutes, while you prepare the rest of the meal.

NOTE:  I like to serve my Rellenos with homemade refried beans and a cheesy green chili rice.  See those recipes below, and it would be a great time to start making them now.  This is also a good time to blend your Ranchera sauce and make is smooth.  Keep it simmering on a back burner until ready to serve.

Start about 2 inches of oil getting hot in a deep sided frying pan (…just hot enough that a droplet of water makes it pop and fizzle.  Not hot enough to be smoking.  If you are seeing streaks/waves in your oil, it may be too hot.  Either drop your heat, or add a little more oil to cool it down a bit before adding your chilies).  The pan you use should be large enough that two chilies will fit without touching the sides or each other.

Hot oil

As soon as the green chilies have cooled enough to handle take them to the sink and begin removing the skins.  They should slide right off easily.  If not, be careful not to tear the chili, as it will be hard to keep the filling inside while you are battering it.

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Once the chilies are skinned, make a slight slit along the side near the top stem of each.

cut the chili

Only make it big enough to slide the pieces of cheese inside.  If you wish to remove some of the seeds you  may do that also.  I push the seeds out through the slit.  I don’t mind a few seeds in my rellenos though.  I use Pepper-Jack Cheese.  For 8 to 10 chilies you will need about 1 1/2 8-oz blocks, which I cut into quarter-inch slices and then into quarter inch strips.

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Begin stuffing your chilies with strips of cheese, about 5 or so strips per chili.  Dust the outsides with flour and lay them on a paper towel as you prepare them.  Once all the chilies have been stuffed and floured, you are ready to make your batter.

I beat two eggs and add about a cup of water to them…

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…and then I whisk in some seasoned beer batter mix (part of one bag) until the consistency is about that of thin pancake batter.  The batter should stick to your chilies, but just leave a fairly thin film.  Hold the chili by the stem and dip it into the batter.  Use a fork to sweep batter over the top of the chili and then gently lift the chili out of the batter, with the fork.  Slide it into the hot oil and let it begin frying.  Add another chili and let the two fry together.

Allow the chilies to fry for a few minutes and then use tongs to turn.  The batter should turn a golden color.  Scoop the chilies out of the oil and place on paper towels for a moment to absorb the oil.  Quickly plate them and cover them with simmering Ranchera Sauce.

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Oh my how I love them!!!!!   Now if I could figure out how to feed a crowd all at the same time I’d be in business.  I only know how to make Rellenos for one person at a time.  Hot and fresh.

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Colleen's Chile Rellenos

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Mama’s Refried Beans

If you’ve made a pot of pinto beans and have leftovers, by all means use them for this.  If not, look for these varieties at your local grocery store.  I used 2 cans of Charro and 1 can of Barracho (which means drunken – notice that they use Shiner beer for this).

First I drained my beans of all the liquid (don’t rinse them).  I melted about 2 Tablespoons of rendered pork fat (lard), actually I used some bacon fat I had on hand, in a sauce pan on the stove, and then added my beans.  I let them just bubble and cook on medium low heat until I was almost ready to serve my meal.  Moments before I was ready to serve I took a potato masher and mashed the beans until they were the desired consistence.  They may be served with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese and some chopped green onion.

NOTE: This also makes a wonderful bean dip, if you like that with tortilla chips for a snack.

DSCN9810Cheesy Green Chili Rice

First I sautéed my rice in about 1/2 a stick of butter in a small sauce pot, on high heat.  After about a minute of continuous stirring, I added 2 cups of hot chicken broth, 1 can of diced green chilies, and a grind of sea salt.  When the liquid boils, place a lid on the pot and turn the heat down to low.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.  Lift the lid and lay several slices of pepper jack cheese on top of the rice.  Replace the lid and leave until cheese is melted.  Lift lid and fluff rice with a fork, incorporating the cheese throughout.  If you like it just a little creamier, you may add a splash of Crema, or heavy cream, and a sprinkle of cayenne.

 

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.”  Acts 2:46

 

 

Daily Prompt: Festive

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Daily Prompt: Festive

via Daily Prompt: Festive

dscn7518Tis the season for TAMALES, fa la la la la la la la la…

What could be more festive than tamales?  Just the shear process of making them is by definition, FESTIVE!  All the women of the family, closest friends, and surrounding neighbors gathered together in one tiny house.  Cherished loved ones in aprons hovering over perfectly seasoned smoldering pork and stewing chicken.  Gifted hands dutifully chopping and cleaning jalapeños and onions.  Skilled hands making masa with lard, kneading it for an hour to get it just right, and washing and soaking corn husks.  Little hands scrubbing countertops and tables in preparation of the assembly process.  Pots of steaming water bubbling away furiously on the stove.  Music and chatter, mostly Spanish, lingering festively in the atmosphere.  Restless children bustling underfoot.  Moms and grandmoms hollering at them, and also sharing stories of Christmases past, faith, and Jesus and Mary and Joseph, women having babies, and the glory of God.  Aunts, cousins, and in-laws laughing, tasting, teasing, gossiping, squabbling, crying, and making merry with one another.   Everyone settling into their station to lovingly mass produce dozens upon dozens of these tasty little treats, for their grateful families…and ours.

 

Even the act of eating tamales is festive.  In fact, Christmas isn’t Christmas without tamales (especially if you’re in Texas)…freshly made, piping hot little packages of glistening gold, waiting to be unwrapped, and then decorated with red and green, and flocked with white.

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My very favorite tamales are savory pork with spicy jalapeno and dripping with bacon fat.  Mmmm.  Oh my goodness!  I love them hot and fresh from the steamer, buck naked, and so scorching that I can barely hold onto the wrapper to unwrap it, blowing and blowing, and deliriously addicted to its intoxicating aroma as it passes over my lips and melts on my tongue.  If that were the only way I could ever have them, it would be plenty enough for me, but a little hot sauce, red or green, makes them even better!  And, oh how I adore them dolled up Tex-Mex style, like a taco.  Three sleepy amigos laying on my plate, brought to life with green onions and lettuce and cheese and pico de gallo and black olives and sour cream with salsa mixed in it, spooned on top.  Or, how lovely they are dressed with green tomatillo salsa and some chopped green onion, or smothered in spicy New Mexico green chili, or Terlingua red chili.  Or swimming in a spicy, creamy pepper-jack cheese sauce and heaped with fresh pico on top. Or, my favorite way, decked out like a bowl of tortilla soup, sitting in their husks and splashed with a squeeze of lime, then slathered in red or green salsa, with a handful of chopped, fresh cilantro, chopped green onion, guacamole, and a generous crumble of queso fresco tossed on top.  (I’m seeing a Tamale Bar in my future; an Ugly Sweater Christmas party with a Tamale Bar and a house decorated in hot chili pepper lights – see how festive tamales are?).  Oh how I love them!!!!!!!  I love them sooooo much!   I feel almost guilty penning my intimate thoughts.  Fifty shades of GOLD.  Is it okay to lick the husks?  <blushing!>

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Just lift the lid and let the steam swirl up onto your face.  Gaze upon their golden deliciousness!  Decorate them with your favorite red and green, and white!  Serve them at parties or eat them on the street.  Give them to your family, or sneak a midnight treat!   Eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every day of the week and the whole month of December.  I know all these tamales will lead to diet resolutions, but for now please let us savor our binomial distributions!  Muy fantástico!

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* feliz navidad *

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